Monday, September 30, 2013

bus driver accused of doing what??

A Des Moines Register news item shows what happens when fear takes hold:
A male school bus driver was pulled from his route in the Waukee [IA] district last week after he took a group picture of students, and asked two girls to pass along his contact information to their teachers, a district official said. 
Parents of the girls notified the district because they were concerned the driver wrote down his phone number and email on a piece of paper and handed it to the students last Thursday, said Waukee Superintendent David Wilkerson.
Scary business, asking kids to hand a piece of paper to their teachers. And the photo! He took a photo of the kids!
The photo taken by the driver was of all students on the bus holding up their index fingers to indicate they were “number one,” he said.
That is suspicious...if you have a wild imagination.

It certainly wasn't criminal; I don't see how it was even frightening. Perhaps the bus company or the school have guidelines that the man violated. Do not hand paper to students. The article doesn't say.

One of two things is true: the children or the parents saw something ordinary as creepy or the bus driver was creepy. Neither one seems reason to call authorities. Some children have wild imaginations. Some people give off a creepy vibe. The article mentions no illegal acts and yet the video from the two cameras on the bus has been handed over to law enforcement for investigation.

Being creepy is not illegal. The fact that some people behave in unusual ways is reason for parents to educate their kids on how to be kind and courteous to strange people. Any parent who has a child who exhibits unusual social behaviors must worry that those children will be seen as "creepy", now that "creepy" seems to be reason for investigation.

This man is being investigated for very ordinary behavior. The bus company and school, by going to law enforcement, are encouraging us to see danger in ordinary behavior.

Fear permeates this story--fear that someone who acts in inappropriate ways is going to be a danger to children, and fear that children who encounter that person will be unable to handle the situation.

Why did the parents and school district have so little faith in the ability of their kids to handle the situation? The kids did tell their parents, after all. Isn't that what we want them to do if they encounter something that frightens them?

The very fact that a story like this is in the newspaper tells us something: the newspaper thinks a man acting inappropriately--though not criminally--is newsworthy. Why is that? Because fear-mongering sells newspapers.

The assumption seems to be that the man could have been dangerous, though the article doesn't tell us why we should think that. He didn't ask the kids to contact him; he asked them to pass a message to their teacher.
Wilkerson said it appears the driver intended to set up a “pen pal correspondence” with students in Tennessee, where the driver has a regular route. 
Pen pals! That practice used to be seen as a good thing. Not so long ago, the beloved Weekly Reader encouraged schoolchildren to write to servicemen overseas. You read that right: children were encouraged to write to adult servicemen and women. Stranger danger, anyone?

Until the news media rely on fact and common sense instead of strumming the chord of unreasoning fear, stories that generate fear and suspicion will continue to get attention. 

If only bus companies would do a background check on their drivers; surely that would eliminate problems like this. Wait. What's this?
Officials in Waukee and Ames said all bus drivers have passed background checks.
Even the ubiquitous background check cannot prevent bus drivers behaving in ordinary ways from drawing the attention of law enforcement.

Anyone who is on the sex offender registry or has a family member on the registry understands what lies under the surface of this story: 

Innocuous behavior can be interpreted in the worst possible way.
The innocent can be accused. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

a former offender meets the public

In Belmont MA, a registered sex offender spoke at a town meeting, saying,
"My name is Carl Peterson. I'm the level 3 sex offender all of you have been talking about," said the 48-year-old Bernard Road resident as the audience sat in rapt silence, several holding a hand to their mouth, others sitting forward in their chairs, all waiting on each sentence.  
It is extremely rare that a convicted sex offender will speak freely about their crime and the life they are attempting to live in a new community.
Many former offenders will speak to state legislators or to Senators and Congressmen. Standing up at a town meeting and explaining--not excusing--his crime? Rare, indeed.

I admire this man's courage in confronting people he knows have been saying terrible things about him, people he knows will never trust him. 

This man, his wife and daughter moved to Belmont in July, where he is currently the only level 3 registered sex offender. Level 3 indicates that someone guesses he is at risk of re-offending. 

I hope he and his family are able to live in Belmont free of fear.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

secure delete

When some Handbasket visitors noticed that sd, a commenter, has a blog explaining how to overwrite data on a hard drive so that the data cannot be recovered, they thought they understood something about sd.

Lori Dixon said: am sure you'd be in prison too if someone turned your computer in- despite your clever tech tips at hiding evidence. 
LizaMoore also thinks he has nefarious intentions:
sd - If I can find a place to report your website - I'm going to do it.
With the tiniest bit of imagination, I'm sure Lori and Liza could think of legitimate uses of secure deletion software. 

Leaving your computer home while you are on vacation? Might want to erase any documents you emailed yourself from the office so you could work on them over the weekend. If your computer is stolen, you don't want to expose your employer to any risk.

Selling your computer or giving it away? You definitely want to make sure that the new owner won't discover your social security, bank account, or credit card numbers left on the hard drive.

You let your visiting 15-year-old nephew use your WiFi to read his emails and he opens attached pictures of his very naked 15-year-old girlfriend? This is on your IP address. If I were you, I would make sure the images were deleted. Securely. All it would take is for a Geek Squad guy to notice it and turn you in. 

Still unconvinced? You are still sure that none of that applies to you and that anyone interested in secure deletion software must be up to no good?

What does that say about your friends--or you?--who have Apple computers? 

Apple hard drives come with Secure Erase, a utility that does exactly what sd teaches PC users to do.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

high incarceration rate leads to poor hiring decisions

During a routine divorce hearing in a Las Vegas courtroom, a woman was sexually assaulted in a back room by a federal marshal.
[The] woman ...complains that a marshal sexually assaulted her in a back room. The woman becomes increasingly agitated as the marshal, who is in the courtroom, then arrests her for “making false allegations about a police officer,” all while the magistrate plays with the woman’s child, at least until the child begs the arresting officer to not take her momma away.
The woman filed a complaint and the marshal was fired, though not because the judge took any interest in what was happening right in front of her.

How could this happen? How could such a man hold the position of federal marshall?

The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, with 2.2 million people in jails or prisons. So many people are incarcerated that Sesame Street has produced an education kit designed to help children who have family members in prison. 

Necessarily, the number of corrections officers has increased. Over 434,000 corrections officers are employed in the U.S. I imagine, though I couldn't find a source, the number of federal marshals has also increased. When more and more guards and marshals are needed, the chance of hiring the wrong person increases.

Not only is the incarceration rate playing a large role in bankrupting our country financially, putting more and more people in positions of power over others will play a large role in bankrupting our country morally.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and The Falling Man

Today is the anniversary of 9/11. I didn't have a post ready for today and then I read Esquire's article on the famous Falling Man photograph from that terrible day and decided to post a link to that.

Tom Junod explores the treatment of The Falling Man photo in particular and photos of terrible events in general. Richard Drew took photos of people jumping from the towers and the Falling Man was published in newspapers all over the world on September 12. A horrified country demanded an end to publishing or airing those images out of respect for those who jumped and their families.

I have no comment except read it. The article is quite long but well worth the time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

myths and misconceptions

The Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force deconstructs myths and misconceptions about sex offenders. Let me pull out a few interesting bits.
A “one size fits all” approach does not contribute to community safety, since the most dangerous offenders will often be supervised the same as low risk offenders.
With over 750,000 sex offenders on registries in the United States, it should be obvious that some are dangerous and some are not.
A small percentage of those who offend children would be considered “pedophiles” and would be described as having a sexual preference for undeveloped bodies without secondary sexual characteristics. [Emphasis mine.]
Calling all sex offenders whose offenses involved children "pedophiles" makes as much sense as calling all sex offenders, well, "sex offenders". All sex offenders are not the same. Their crimes are different, their motivations are different.
It is estimated that in the United States, juveniles account for up to one fifth of all rapes and up to one half of all cases of child molestation committed each year.
That adds up to a lot of children on the sex offender registry. You know...the registry intended to protect children.
For child abuse victims, 60% of boys and 80% of girls were assaulted by a family member or acquaintance. 
So, those strangers on the registry that worry you? They aren't the ones you should worry about.
When all sex offenders are managed the same, resources are shared and the most dangerous offenders may be supervised the same as less dangerous offenders. 
Pretending that all sex offenders are dangerous means we make it possible for the dangerous ones to disappear into the crowd.
Studies show that comparing sex offenders sentenced to prison versus community sentences, the recidivism rate was 7% higher for prisoners compared to those offenders kept in the community. Additionally, longer prison terms also increased risk upon release. 
Offenders released from prison have a more difficult time returning to the community than those who never were forced out of the community. Makes sense to me. Returning to the community as a sex offender makes it very difficult to find a job and, in some locations, very difficult to find a place to live. Homeless and unemployed sex that really what we want?
Even though harsh penalties for sex offenders are more common responses than treatment, studies show that community (cognitive/behavioral) treatment decreased risk more than prison treatment and more than only supervision/management of sex offenders.
Are legislators are more interested in looking tough than being effective?

Read the whole thing. The word "humane" came to mind.

Monday, September 9, 2013

sex offender assaulted

Twin Falls ID, two men beat up a 69-year-old sex offender last week because of his conviction five years ago. 
Twin Falls Police Officer Samir Smriko wrote in a police report that officers were called to a Twin Falls motel last week to investigate a battery. They found [a] 69-year-old [man], who had a two-inch gash on his forehead and other injuries. 
According to the report, [the victim] said two men came to his door and began beating him because of a past child sex abuse case. 
You know what I find interesting? The likelihood of the those two men assaulting someone else is much, much higher than the likelihood of the sex offender committing another sex offense. The recidivism rate for assault is around 65%; for sex offense, around 5%.

Which of the three men was on a registry? The one least likely to be a danger.

Monday, September 2, 2013

protecting the integrity of psychiatry

Even eight months after it was published, the New Yorker surprises me with The Science of Sex Abuse. Rachel Aviv looks at how convicted sex offenders can be committed indefinitely for treatment. Her piece is long; do read the whole thing. Tidbits I found interesting:
Child-pornography sentencing laws have been passed rapidly, with little debate; it’s nearly impossible, politically, to object to harsh punishments for perverts. Melissa Hamilton, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, told me that lawmakers have treated pornography possession as if it were an “inchoate crime.” She said, “It has become a kind of proxy—a way to incapacitate men who we fear have already molested someone, or will in the future.”
Ah, yes. Putting people in prison because we fear they will commit a crime. On my everything is a gateway post, commenter Allison G says it is "illogical" to wait for someone to commit a crime before putting the person in prison. Illogical? 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which its sponsor described as the “most comprehensive child crimes and protection bill in our Nation’s history.” It allows the federal Bureau of Prisons to keep inmates in prison past their release date if it appears that they’ll have “serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.” Their extended confinement is achieved through civil commitment, a legal procedure more often used to hospitalize patients who have severe mental illness, usually bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.... 
Since the nineties, twenty states have passed similar statutes, known as sexually-violent-predator laws, for offenders who suffer from “volitional impairment”—a legal term that does not correspond to any medical diagnosis.
Outrageous. We keep people in prison because of a crime they have not yet committed--and even the best guesses that they will commit the crime are still only guesses--and we use a made-up diagnosis to do it. 
When relying only on clinical interviews, mental-health professionals predict dangerous behavior at a rate not much better than chance. ... The demand for ways of predicting future criminal behavior has spawned a cottage industry of actuarial instruments, which predict sexual violence about as well as the S.A.T. forecasts freshman grades. Neither correlation is particularly strong. But the instruments confer a stamp of scientific precision on a judgment that psychologists have proved ill-equipped to make.
Only guesses...spawning a cottage industry. Always interesting to see who makes money from the misfortune of others.
During the past fifteen years, the American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly objected to the civil commitment of sex offenders. In 1999, a task force created by the organization wrote that “confinement without a reasonable prospect of beneficial treatment of the underlying disorder is nothing more than preventative detention.” Six years later, another task-force report asserted that the laws represent a “serious assault on the integrity of psychiatry.” 
I'm all for protecting the integrity of psychiatry and I'll get to it right after we stop assaulting the civil rights of people who have not yet committed the crime they are doing time for. I'd get to it sooner if I knew psychiatry weren't besmirching its own reputation by jumping on the bandwagon to develop those tools to predict the unpredictable.
The science of perversion is decades behind the rest of the field. The diagnostic criteria for sexual disorders were tested on only three patients before being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in 1980. No field trials have since been conducted....
Michael First, the editor of the two most recent editions of the D.S.M., told me that there is no scientific research establishing that abnormal desires are any harder to control than normal ones. “People choose to do bad things all the time,” he said. “Psychiatry is being coƶpted by the criminal-justice system to solve a problem that is moral, not medical.”
No wonder the integrity of psychiatry needs protection.